GED® Social Studies Extended Response Prompt
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their
Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
- Declaration of Independence, 1776
In this excerpt from his August 28, 1963 speech during the March on Washington, Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. explains his views about how Black Americans felt during the Civil Rights Movement.
“The Negro still is not free; one hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the
manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination; one hundred years later, the Negro lives on a
lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity; one hundred years later, the
Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.
So we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s
capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the
Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every
American was to fall heir. This note was the promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men,
would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note in so far as her citizens of color
are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad
check: a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” . . .
. . . . There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.
The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of
justice emerges.
. . . I still have a dream . . that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed –
we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”
In your response, develop an argument about how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s position in his speech
reflects the enduring issue expressed in the quotation from the Declaration of Independence.
Incorporate the relevant and specific evidence from the excerpt, the speech and your own knowledge
of the enduring issue and the circumstances surrounding the civil rights movement to support your
Type your response in the box. This task may require 25 minutes to complete.
This suggested answer is based on the prompt above.
The enduring issue from the Declaration of Independence is that
everyone is created equal by God and should have basic rights. In
his 1963 speech, Dr. King agrees with the enduring issue shown in
the Declaration and believes that both black people and white
people should have equal rights and be treated the same. He also
says that Black Americans were not treated equally because of
segregation and discrimination.
The enduring principle is
explained in bold
In 1776, the Declaration of Independence said that all men are
created equal and have certain basic rights. Dr. King agrees with
these principles and compares the Declaration to a promise. The
promise was that both blacks and whites should have the rights to
life, freedom, and to chase their dreams. While the Declaration
promised rights to all men, Black Americans were not allowed to use
their rights. So the promise of the Declaration was like a bad check
that bounced.
Specific evidence from the text is
paraphrased (not directly quoted)
and shown in italics
In his speech, Dr. King shows that Black Americans are not free even
though slavery ended one hundred years before. He talks about how
blacks are segregated, having to ride in the back of the bus and use
separate water fountains. Dr. King also shows that Black Americans
cannot pursue their dreams. Because of discrimination they live in
poverty while the rest of the United States prospers.
During the 1960s, Dr. King and others worked to help Black
Americans gain equal rights during the Civil Rights movement. They
gave speeches, held protests, and demanded equal rights. The Civil
Rights movement helped Black Americans get basic rights like the
right to vote and to not be discriminated against in housing and
education. Dr. King said that the United States would not rest until
Black Americans were treated fairly. His dream was that he would
one day see an America where the rights given by the Declaration
would apply to everyone.
The underlined shows the
connection between the enduring
principle and the later speech.
The paragraphs bring in evidence
from both passages and explain
how they support the enduring
Information about the Civil Rights
movement is given in the last